Ameya Deshmukh, a 16-year-old junior at Upper Arlington High School, is the first-place winner in the national Addiction Science Awards.

Ameya Deshmukh, a 16-year-old junior at Upper Arlington High School, is the first-place winner in the national Addiction Science Awards.

Deshmukh received the award during the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world's largest science competition for high school students, held May 9-14 in San Jose, Calif.

Deshmukh was among 1,500 students from more than 50 countries who participated in this year's ISEF competition. As the first-place winner in his category, he received a $2,500 scholarship.

Deshmukh's winning project was titled "Rational Drug Design Methods for the Identification of a Novel Negative Allosteric Modulator of a4b2 Nicotinic Receptors." He began the project as a UAHS sophomore by contacting Ohio State University's pharmacology department, which has for many years been conducting research in the treatment of nicotine addiction.

"I thought the research was really interesting," Deshmukh said.

Deshmukh said he used computerized molecular models to narrow the list of potential drug compounds. He tested the compounds on human embryonic kidney cells from OSU's pharmacology department to identify which compounds showed the most promise in treating nicotine addiction.

"Our first-place winner realized the potential of rational drug design to address the need for more effective medications for treating nicotine addiction," said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which sponsored the competition. "The result of this project, if developed further, has the potential to dramatically improve our smoking cessation strategies."

Deshmukh said he became interested in the treatment of nicotine addiction while learning in school about nicotine-related health-care costs.

"It's like a $150-billion problem," he said.

Deshmukh is continuing his research in the treatment nicotine addiction. He plans to apply next year at John Hopkins University, the University of Chicago and Princeton and major in a scientific subject area.

"Science is my first choice, for sure," he said.

The second-place finalist in the Addiction Science Awards was Kevin Knight, 17, a junior at Collegiate High School in Niceville, Fla. Knight researched treatments for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The third-place finalist was Joseph Yagoda, 17, a junior at the William A. Shine Great Neck High School in Great Neck, N.Y. Yagoda researched cognitive therapies to prevent risk-taking behaviors among high school students, such as cutting class.

"These are important issues, since we know that succeeding in school is crucial for future achievement, and is also a preventive factor for drug abuse and related health problems," said Cindy Miner, NIDA's chief ISEF judge and deputy director of NIDA's Office of Science Policy and Communications. "We were thrilled that these brilliant young people already understand how science is key to solving these kinds of challenge social and health issues."

For a complete list of ISEF winners, visit